Staying Calm In Court

Understanding Wobbler Laws And DWI Charges

In a criminal case, there are some offenses that are known as "wobblers." That means a charge can be prosecuted either as a serious felony or as a relatively milder misdemeanor. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest, driving while intoxicated can end up being a wobbler charge — even for a first offense.

What sort of things can make driving while intoxicated (DWI) a "wobbler" that the prosecution can turn into a more serious charge? Why would the prosecution do that? What does it mean for you? Here's what you should know.

The Prosecutor Is Motivated To Charge You With The Most Serious Offense Possible

Prosecutors have one goal in mind when they bring a charge: conviction. Their conviction rates are very important to their success as a prosecutor, so they won't usually bring a charge unless they think they can win a conviction. However, every plea bargain also counts as a "win" for the prosecution, and prosecutors know that many people will panic the moment they hear the serious charges leveled against them.

By making use of wobbler laws, prosecutors know that they can intimidate many defendants into taking a plea bargain — any plea bargain — that drops the charge back down to a lower offense. For the prosecution, that's always a win — and it allows them to avoid the inconvenience and expense of a trial.

Sometimes The Higher Charge Is Motivated By The Circumstances Of Your Case

You're most likely to be charged under a wobbler law if the prosecution considers you a chronic offender (due to previous DWI charges on your record), you injured someone while you were driving, or the prosecution thinks that you were particularly reckless.

In those situations, the prosecutor may not be leveling the higher charges just to intimidate you into a plea. He or she may be responding directly to the circumstances of your case or to the public's perception of events — at which point you need to understand that there won't be any negotiations around a plea to a lesser charge.

The Consequences Of A Felony Conviction For DWI Are Severe

If you're facing the potential of a felony conviction for a DWI, the stakes are very high. If you're convicted or you plead guilty, you can expect increased jail time, the loss of your license to drive for a number of years, and a permanent record as a felon that you'll have to reveal on any job application, to creditors, and even to potential landlords. 

Whatever your circumstances, it's wise to contact a DWI attorney for advice as soon as you are charged — your future depends on it. It's not easy to negotiate the best deal for yourself when you're caught up in a DWI case, and the prosecution knows that.